As I visited with my Aunt Dixie Richards at the Byer family picnic, last Sunday, she talked about how her grandchildren were getting older now, and they need her less and less. She was sad about that, because this was an era that had defined her life for the past 22 years…and truly even beyond that. She was mom first, and then grandma. It was who she was. Being mom and grandma defined her completely. Aunt Dixie was always about her family, and now she was feeling like they didn’t need her anymore. Of course, she and I both knew that wasn’t technically true. She is very important to all of the members of her family, it’s just that her idea of her usefulness was in question. It wasn’t that she didn’t think she was needed at all, she just wasn’t sure what her new role would be with these less needy grandchildren.
I can understand how she felt, because I have felt that way myself at different times in my life, as has Aunt Dixie. We were both caregivers…until were weren’t. We were hands-on moms…until the kids grew up, and did their own things. And now we are both hands-on grandmothers with grandchildren who no longer need our help. So, who will we be now? Will we someday soon become hands-on great grandmothers? Probably not, because the hands-on grandparents will be our children. Our role will be simply to hold and cuddle the great grandbabies sometimes, when we get the chance. It’s a strange place to be.
Of course, both Aunt Dixie and I will find our way in this new reality we live in. Our lives will be different, but that doesn’t mean the kids won’t need us, because they will. Aunt Dixie still has a younger grandchild…her only granddaughter, Mayme, but she is in school too, so she won’t have nearly as much time with her when school starts. It’s kind of a lonely feeling for Aunt Dixie, but like all of us, she will move forward, and figure out how to redefine herself, and before long it will all be ok again. Today is Aunt Dixie’s birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Dixie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
I talked to my Aunt Sandy Pattan yesterday. She wanted me to post that the family picnic was coming up. That is a common event each year, but what surprises me is that so many people do not attend. I know what they are thinking…there’s always time next year, but what if there isn’t. As Aunt Sandy said, we are all getting older…and the older ones are getting fewer and fewer. We have lost so many over the last few years…Aunt Deloris Johnson, Uncle Elmer Johnson, my dad, Al Spencer, Uncle Larry Byer, and Uncle Jack McDaniels…and our cousin, Forrest Beadle, along with various other cousins that passed as babies. For these, there is no more time. We will not see them again in this life. And there is no time table that we are privy to that tells us just how much time we have with each of our other family members.
For me, there is a loneliness that comes with each passing. I always wish that I had more time. I kick myself for thinking that there was always time to go visit them. We are all busy, but on this one day, and the Christmas party day, it is easy to go see several of them at once. When they come together in one group it is a joyous occasion and the stories fly. It really is a blessed time. It’s a time to meet any family members you might not know or at least, not well, because as we grow, it becomes harder to know everyone well.
For Aunt Sandy, the youngest of the nine siblings, the passing of each brother-in-law, feels like it did to lose her own sister and brother, because some of them have been a part of her family since she was a little girl. She told me that they are as much her brothers as her own brothers. Sometimes, you don’t think about that. They have always been there, it seems, and the thought that they might not be someday is a hard thing to think about. The older we get, the more that realization comes to us. Regret is a cruel emotion, and one that only you can avoid. Never look back on life thinking I wish…! It is the hardest thing to do. So many moments present themselves each and every day, to do things that we give us peace…or as much peace as is possible after a loved one dies…that we did everything we could to let them know we love them, and that we enjoy being around them. Don’t wait…there isn’t always time…the time is now.